This month, KPMG published its annual US Customer Experience Excellence Analysis titled Know me: The key to an individualized, personal customer experience. The survey behind the analysis included 7,500 U.S. consumers and 250 brands across 10 business sectors: financial services, grocery, non-grocery retail, restaurants & fast-food, entertainment & leisure, travel and hotels, logistics, utilities, telecommunications and public sector. The report lists this years’ top 100 customer champions and provides a number of examples of powerful customer experiences across industries. It’s a great read for those that are looking for some personalization inspiration.

With that in mind, here are my main takeaways from this year’s report.  

Personalization is critical to influencing consumer loyalty

Each year, KPMG measures what it calls the “Six Pillars” — personalization, integrity, empathy, expectations, time and effort, and resolution — to uncover the impact of each pillar on driving loyalty and advocacy. Just like last year, KPMG found that personalization has the highest impact on influencing consumers’ choices.  

Notably, KPMG indicates that personalization can’t just be surface level. It has to be based on a real understanding of each person. The report states, “Now, you must show that you know more than their name; you have to show that you know them as a person.”

Of course, this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. We’re all consumers ourselves, and we can all identify with KPMG’s statement from the customer’s perspective: “I want to be recognized as an individual; I want to be made to feel confident, important to your organization and valued.” When we feel valued, we feel a deeper connection to the company and are more willing to keep coming back. That’s why personalization has the strongest impact than all of the other pillars on driving loyalty.

But personalization is inextricably linked to integrity

Interestingly, the gap between personalization and the second-most important pillar, integrity, dropped from a seven-point difference in 2017 to a three-point difference this year. KPMG refers to the relationship between these two pillars as the “personalization paradox.” As consumers experience personalization done well from a company, the more they trust that organization. With greater trust comes the willingness to share more information — which can, in turn, lead to better and more relevant experiences.

But when companies abuse the data that customers have shared — that trust is eroded.

Data is the foundation of any personalized experience. You have to understand a person in order to deliver a personalized experience. But you won’t get the benefits of personalization if you approach it in a manner that a customer could consider “creepy.” If you are visibly personalizing an experience based on information the customer didn’t know you had access to, for example, it can be unsettling. The best personalized experience is one that a customer doesn’t even realize is tailored to her — she just finds the experience easy and relevant.

Using customer insight to drive personalization

The KPMG report covers the importance of understanding your customers to provide better customer experiences, stating that “customer insights are the lifeblood of modern business. So, the more companies know about their customers, the better they can innovate and compete.”

KPMG provides many examples. For example, USAA uses data to predict when a customer will be experiencing a major life event and provides tailored communications at those moments. Vanguard’s ethnographic research helps it fully understand what a customer goes through during specific events to provide a better customer experience overall. JetBlue measures its customer experience end-to-end every day in order to continuously improve.

These are all impressive stories of how companies can leverage insights to provide a better customer experience. At Evergage, we suggest clients take this a step further by encouraging marketers to bring together all of the data they have on their customers — including deep behavioral data and what those behaviors say about their personal preferences and affinities; any attribute data such as their geolocation, loyalty program status, the products they use, etc; and any data accumulated through surveys or forms in the past — in one single location. Then, those companies can leverage machine learning to sift through all of that information and select the most relevant experience to show an individual across channels (note: for information about how Evergage approaches GDPR, read this blog post).  

Any company can make personalization and customer experience a priority

What strikes me about the list of the top 100 US customer champions is that it spans many industries, and no single industry dominates the top of the list. Two financial services companies (Navy Federal Credit Union and USAA) and Disney make up the top three, while three grocers, an airline, and three non-grocery retailers comprise the rest of the top 10.

While companies like Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify often get a lot of credit for their personalization, this report reminds us that no matter your industry, you can deliver a relevant experience to your customers. This is important because as customers receive personalized experiences from the USAAs and Disneys of the world, they come to expect them from all the other companies they interact with. And when they experience them from multiple industries, that expectation only grows.

Marketers across industries can use this report to feel empowered to deliver personalized experiences to their prospects and customers.

Final Thoughts

Personalization is a key aspect of any good customer experience. It helps customers find relevant products or information, makes them feel as if the companies they interact with truly know and understand them, and ultimately fosters loyalty.

To learn how Evergage can help you deliver personalized experiences across channels, request a demo today. For KPMG’s full analysis, download its report.